Giving: Charity and Philanthropy in History

Front Cover
Transaction Publishers, 1996 - 241 pages

"According to Greek mythology mankind's first benefactor was the Titan, Prometheus, who gave fire, previously the exclusive possession of the gods, to mortal man." With these words the esteemed scholar Robert Bremner presents the first full-fledged history of attitudes toward charity and philanthropy. "Giving "is a perfect complement to his earlier work "The Discovery of Poverty in the United States. "The word "philanthropy "has been translated in a variety of ways: as a loving human disposition, loving kindness, love of mankind, charity, fostering mortal man, championing mankind, and helping people. Bremner's book covers all of these meanings in rich detail.

Bremner describes the ancient world and classical attitudes toward giving and begging; Middle Ages and early modern times, emphasizing hospitals and patients and donors and attributes of charity; the eighteenth century and the age of benevolence; the nineteenth century and the growth of the concept of public relief and social policy; and a careful multiple chapter review of the twentieth century. Bremner reviews the act of giving in such comparative contexts as London, England and Kasrilevke, Russia with such figures as Thomas Carlyle, Charles Dickens, and Sholem Aleichem, as well as the more familiar wealthy industrialist/philanthropists, forming part of the narrative.

The final chapters bring the story up to date, discussing the relationships of modem philanthropy and organized charity, and the uses of philanthropy in education and the arts. Bremner has an astonishing knowledge of the cultural context and the economic contents of philanthropy. As a result, this volume is intriguing as well as important history, written with lively style and wit. Whether the reader is a professional in the so-called "third stream" or "independent sector," or simply a citizen wondering just what the act of giving and the spirit of receiving is all about, "Giving "will be compelling reading.

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Giving: charity and philanthropy in history

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Bremner ( The Discovery of Poverty in the United States , Transaction, 1992) traces the evolution of the uses of charity from Cicero to Carnegie in terms of the relevant social, political, and ... Read full review


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Bremner has been the leading American historian of philanthropy since the 1950s, and in this work he traces the changing attitudes toward charity in the Western world from the Greeks to the present. Read full review

Selected pages


Classical Attitudes toward Giving and Begging
Jewish Christian and Islamic Texts on Giving and Charity
A Hospital and Its Patients
Begging Fund Raising and Charity
Donors and Attributes of Charity
God and Neighbor
The World Is All Alike
The Age of Benevolence
Philanthropy and Reform
Love and Kindness
And May Not This Be?
Paupers Tramps and Beggars
Modern Philanthropy and Organized Charity
Philanthropic Foundations and the Uses of Philanthropy in Higher Education and the Arts
Giving by and for the Poor
Current History Stories from Life

Poets and Philanthropists
Beggars Importunate and Long Rememberd
If All Were as Happy as We
Relief of Need
The Good Samaritan Charles Dickens on Public Relief and Private Charity

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Page 82 - To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite; To forgive wrongs darker than death or night; To defy Power, which seems omnipotent; To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates From its own wreck the thing it contemplates...
Page 76 - Wept o'er his wounds or tales of sorrow done, Shouldered his crutch, and showed how fields were won. Pleased with his guests, the good man learned to glow, And quite forgot their vices in their woe ; Careless their merits or their faults to scan, His pity gave ere charity began.
Page 75 - Near yonder copse, where once the garden smiled, And still where many a garden flower grows wild ; There, where a few torn shrubs the place disclose, The village preacher's modest mansion rose. A man he was to all the country dear, And passing rich with forty pounds a year; Remote from towns he ran his godly race, Nor e'er had changed, nor wished to change, his place.
Page 74 - GOOD people all, with one accord, Lament for Madam Blaize, Who never wanted a good word From those who spoke her praise. The needy seldom pass'd her door, And always found her kind ; She freely lent to all the poor Who left a pledge behind.
Page 80 - For mercy, pity, peace, and love, Is God our Father dear ; And mercy, pity, peace, and love, Is man, His child and care. For Mercy has a human heart, Pity a human face ; And Love, the human form divine ; And Peace, the human dress.
Page 74 - Good people all of every sort, Give ear unto my song, And if you find it wondrous short, It cannot hold you long. In Islington there was a man, Of whom the world might say, That still a godly race he ran, Whene'er he went to pray. A kind and gentle heart he had, To comfort friends and foes ! The naked every day he clad, When he put on his clothes.
Page 80 - Pity would be no more If we did not make somebody poor; And mercy no more could be If all were as happy as we.
Page 138 - The Holy Supper is kept, indeed, In whatso we share with another's need; Not what we give, but what we share, ! For the gift without the giver is bare; Who gives himself with his alms feeds three, Himself, his hungering neighbor, and me.
Page 71 - For forms of government let fools contest ; Whate'er is best administer'd is best : For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight ; His can't be wrong whose life is in the right...
Page 78 - ... to dive into the depths of dungeons; to plunge into the infection of hospitals; to survey the mansions of sorrow and pain; to take the gauge and dimensions of misery, depression, and contempt; to remember the forgotten, to attend to the neglected, to visit the forsaken, and to compare and collate the distresses of all men in all countries.

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